He also spoke about the necessity for students to engage with 'disciplines' (science, mathematics, history, the arts to name a few) and to achieve a degree of mastery before they can develop the robust and resilient habits of mind required by creativity or innovation. This is interesting, as one of the things that most intrigued me in visiting the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, was the way in which students trained (drilled, even) in the most academic, rigorous, classical traditions of painting and sculpture could emerge after graduation as the most interesting, cutting edge, thoughtful, innovative and iconoclastic artists.
It occurred to me that there may well be a need to reexamine some of the dearly held paradigms of western art education and reintroduce, or re-emphasise, elements of 'mastery' and the sheer discipline of learning within a discipline such as the arts. Without this, but with the high standards required of examination systems such as the NSW HSC, there is a risk that students are merely imitating works they have seen, or the ideas of artists they have read about, with little real understanding. It may be that somewhere between the two extremes of rigid academicism in China and the 'free' manipulation of materials / artistic conceptual intentions required of NSW students, lies a path better suited to developing real understanding and authentic knowledge within a field.
|First Year Painting student at CAFA, Beijing|